Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Quiz Quiz Trade

I love this game!
Here's why:

*Time- this game can be done in five minutes or last for 15. It's an easy add-in to any lesson.

*Social skills- students get to practice social skills as they play.

* Built in review time- it's a great review of a lesson or previous lessons.

* Move it- I love that it gets the students up and moving. After sitting all day I like giving them a break.

* Friendship- student have to practice good team work and getting along with others in order for the game to continue.

Since I love it so much I have started creating game cards for several of my books.
Today I created game cards for "Enemy Pie" and "Each Kindness."
Note: Cards are for print on Avery 5371 business card stock.

Is "bullying" the most overused word in schools today?

My pup Brooklyn has a new 'boyfriend' named Gatsby. She watches at the window and if she sees him going for a walk she cries and whines and paces. She loves him. Over Spring Break we were walking and she saw him from afar so she started her happy wiggle dance. Suddenly, Gatsby walked up to another dog and Brooklyn pulled so hard she literally ripped the leash out of my hand leaving one finger so burned and bloody it still hasn't healed. She ran up to the other dog barking and yipping. Was she bullying him? No, but oh my jealousy became her. I have never seen such jealous actions.

Why this story? Well I swear if I have one more parent complaint about "bullying" I might scream. The term bullying has somehow become synonomous with conflict, fighting, and simply not getting along. Friends fight, peers don't always like each other, and yes sometimes bullying does occur. However, when I look at the definition of bullying (is this repeated aggression? is there an imbalance of power? are the feelings from the "victim" different from those of the "aggressor"?) rarely does the reported situation meet the definition. Now, I am not saying bullying isn't a real issue- it is! However, just because two students aren't getting along it doesn't mean that one student is being bullied.

There are so many red flags that go off in my head when a report is made: the student wants to be friends with the so called "bully," they aren't sure it was actually directed at them (especially true in nonverbal situations), the "victim" wants to/is willing to do a mediation with the "bully" (a big no no in real bullying situations),  they have been friends all year and the 'bullying' report comes after they had a big falling out, the so called "bullying" is just now getting reported but we have no examples, cases, documentation, etc. that it's every happened before.

This week I started paying more attention to this phenomena. I realized that students were reporting to me that someone in their class was being a real "bully," but as we discussed it it wasn't so much bullying as a conflict among peers. I think the word has become so overused by adults and students that  my students simply say it without a second thought. As I noticed this I would simply rephrase "what I hear you saying is that you guys aren't getting along" or "sounds like their is some tension between friends right now" and every time they said "yes, that's exactly it."

The term "bully" comes with a lot of baggage. It's a powerful word full of negative connotations and legal ramifications so I think it's vital that we teach students, parents, teachers, and stakeholders what bullying is and what it is not. I think we need to model better phrasing such as "peer conflict, fighting, teasing, etc." so that students are labeled "bullies." It's a word I think we need to use more sparingly. We plaster walls with "anti-bullying" messages. They see the word everywhere, no wonder it's so ingrained in their vocabulary. Instead, I think we should plaster walls with "good friendship skills/good character" so that students can report having trouble with peers and know the important difference. Bullying is important and yes we need to do lessons on reporting it, bystander empowerment, and ending it, but we also need to know and model the difference, we need to distinguish between "lessons on bullying" and "lessons on improving peer relations" so that the term "bullying" doesn't creep into our everyday vocabulary.

So I am off my soap box to share a little newsletter I came up with for my parents. It's two pages of what bullying is, the difference between bullying and fighting, what is teasing, tips and resources for parents. I uploaded it as a google doc for you guys!
Please note that someone page 1 in the pdf is actually page 2 of the handout.
Thanks to 3amTeacher for the amazing frame used in this doc. Check out her TPT store!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Classroom Fun

 I recently got to visit a classroom for their production of a classic Seuss "Horton Hears A Who." The students were amazing and I was so impressed at the teachers ability to transform her classroom into a stage. While visiting my eyes kept finding fun decor and displays so I had to share.

iRead, a fun way to display what the students are currently reading with posters.

What a fun way to display 'horrible homework'

An adorable welcome to the play.
Look at this set up! The backdrop was amazing!

Fun Finds- Books and Games

It's Spring Break and doesn't everyone go shopping for school on their week off? I happened to be in Tuesday Morning this week and found a few fun things.

A story about pirates that get caught and as part of their sentence they must "do a good deed."  The pirates try to do good deeds like eating all of a grandmas cookies in her bakery so she can go home and sleep, but she gets angry at them. They can't figure out how to do a good deed. In the end another set of pirates come and they unwittingly save the day. I enjoyed the book, but I didn't buy it because I was so unsure of the very last past. The pirates decide they are better at 'pirating' than at 'do gooding'.  I didn't love that they never had their 'ah ha' moment and realized the importance of the random acts of kindness. However, it would be a fun book to read if you are doing a random acts of kindness lesson or week.

This is a cute book about two dogs that want to be the best which leads to a lot of competition between them. The competition drives a wedge between friends, who ultimately they learn to work together.  For $5 this was a good book to add to my collection.

I found this responsibility chart, that would be great for parents but I think for teacher or special ed teacher Pre-K through K as well. You could use board maker to make little stickers/pictures to create a big schedule board in the classroom that's easy to change and rearrange. It could also be used to help students with autism visualize their responsibilities in the classroom and a good visual reward system.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Connecting to Common Core Through Socratic Seminars

Today we were asked how has the move towards "Common Core" affected your role as a counselor.
For me the most obvious way is that I feel more limited with my time, it's simply not as easy to take a student out of the classroom even for 15 minutes.

Additionally, I think counselors have been doing "Common Core" for a long time. I could be wrong, but I feel like Common Core is a push towards independent learning and problem solving. Well don't we do that every day? (I won't tell you how to fix this problem with your friend, but I can help you pick and practice an option that works best for you. I can't fix what's happening at home, but I can help you develop coping skills.)

For me the best way to reach my older students, meet Common Core standards, and to really see growth in how my students treat each other is through Socratic Seminars.

I can't encourage enough you to use Socractic Seminars with your students (grades 5 up). Imagine running a small group, but reaching triple the amount of students. Imagine creating a positive classroom environment, tackling bullying, practicing social skills, and encouraging higher order thinking skills in 45 minutes. It's great, but the beginning stages can be frustrating so here are my helpful tips:

Watch, Listen Learn: 
If possible watch a seminar before you venture out on your own. The amazing Angela Bunyi (Academic Interventionist and Teacher) let me watch her in action before we did one together. I was so impressed by how smoothly it ran in her classroom, so I must admit I was a little blind sided when my first solo seminar hit speed bump after speed bump. She taught me a lot! I could never duplicate nor do I want to even try and top her expertise so read her article on doing a seminar here:

It's going to practice: 

Socratic seminars take a certain flow and self control. We are asking a lot of our students (and even ourselves). They have to hold their thoughts/opinions until we have asked for them, they must practice discussing not debating, they can't have side conversations, we can't jump in a save them! Seminars bring up uncomfortable feelings, and they need to practice coping with those. For example, at the end of my last seminar I got feedback from several students that they just didn't like it. When I looked closer at the students that said they didn't care for this lesson I realized they fell into one (or both) of two categories: they had stated opinions that differed from the majority and/or they were students that loved concrete answers (they were uncomfortable in the gray they wanted 1+1=2 always). Practice, practice, practice.